Remote work is all the rage. With companies no longer restricted by the availability of talent in their area, a new global workforce is rising and bringing new challenges with it. Among these, one stands out as perhaps the most obvious — but also the most important: we are talking about communications.
Effective communication between and within teams has always been a key concern for organizations. Difficulties in achieving this are often exacerbated when people are dispersed across the globe. Thankfully, there are proven principles to help with these issues.
Start with these 7 rules, and you’ll likely see an instant improvement in how your team communicates.
1. Create a communicative culture
An effective and appropriate company culture is one of the hardest things to get right in the world of work. If not approached proactively, the remote work culture can lead to people feeling isolated and unmotivated.
The physical detachment of remote work can lead to disillusionment and low motivation if countermeasures aren’t put in place. One effective remedy is to have regular video calls with every team member. Seeing the people we work with can lead to a sense of closeness and shared purpose. The start and end of the working week are ideal times for everyone to check in face to face.
Aside from video calling, friendly and supportive instant messaging is a great way to boost morale. Celebrate achievements, and check-in with team members regularly. This leads to a sense of togetherness and being on the same page in pursuit of a shared goal.
2. Respect people’s boundaries
The right amount of remote team communication is a delicate balance to reach. Too much communication can lead to people feeling swamped and overwhelmed. Too little can lead to people feeling isolated and uncared for. It’s important to find a golden mean between excessive and insufficient levels of communication.
Establishing norms and rules can go a long way to help with this. Ideally, your remote team members should know that during working hours they can communicate openly and positively with others via approved apps.
By the same token, they should know there is no pressure to reply at unsociable hours, and that times such as vacations and weekends will be respected. Don’t be afraid to ask your team about their preferences! Solicit feedback on the level of communication they feel comfortable with and make the necessary adjustments.
Getting everyone on the same page early on can reduce the likelihood of problems occurring from too much or too little communication further down the line.
3. Ensure that no one is left behind
It’s essential to ensure that every remote team member feels like a valued individual whose contributions are heard and recognized. Sometimes, remote work teams can unintentionally lead to some people feeling isolated.
This might be because they are the only people in a certain region, or the only team member carrying out a certain type of task. There are several solutions to this problem. One is to create a space in your internal communications system where people are free to discuss off-topic issues (aside from work-related ones). This helps recreate the social atmosphere of old-school offices.
Another solution is to ensure that every team member checks in each day, to share their achievements and struggles. It’s vital that other members of the team support one another so that everyone feels valued.
4. Focus on purpose and action
Many modern workers are frustrated by the abundance of pointless meetings. While it’s important to stay in touch and communicate as a team, meetings should always have a clear purpose and be kept as short as possible.
People can get bored when meetings seem to be held for their own sake. Because communication is rightly seen as important for remote teams, it can be tempting to fall into a pattern of overdoing it. Instead, ensure your team feels respected by keeping the focus on purposeful communication with a plan of action at the end of it.
5. Use automation to increase efficiency
One barrier standing in the way of effective remote team communication is losing time to repetitive, manual tasks. Let’s consider an example.
Let’s suppose your organization uses Gmail as a communication channel. One particular remote team member is responsible for checking the inbox. This team member is required to spend time reading the incoming emails, extracting the information, adding it to a spreadsheet, and informing others on the team when this is complete.
Automation provides a better way of doing things. By using an automation solution, you could carry out the entire process described above without the need for human attention. This frees up your remote team to carry out more essential work and to only communicate about the things that really matter.
6. Standard operating procedures result in effective working
It’s easy to overlook the fact that there are downsides in remote work operations. In a conventional workplace, it tends to be easier to just approach a colleague to clear a doubt or get assistance with a task. In remote, that’s not always the easiest thing to do.
Standard operating procedures are one of the best ways to ensure that remote teams function effectively. Giving people a clear, step by step method on the best way to achieve something ensures that tasks are carried out the right way, and time isn’t wasted having to ask questions on how something should be done.
Standard operating procedures can also apply to communication. It’s very empowering to let your team know who to speak, the correct channels for communication, and what type of response they should expect. While remote work means that team members don’t need to be in the same place, standard operating procedures can help to ensure they are on the same page.
7. Don’t leave remote team communication to chance
It can be tempting to assume that the right technology will solve everything. While instant messaging as a business solution can make a real difference to how teams communicate, they aren’t the be-all and end-all. It’s important to start any remote work project with clear principles in place to aid effective communication.
Equally, it’s important to be flexible. If something isn’t working, don’t be afraid to change it. Get feedback from your team. People are a lot more likely to buy into communication policies if they have a say in them. Ultimately, the potential advantages of remote work hugely outweigh the downsides.
Just remember: provide clear communication principles, and watch the particular dynamics of your team to make the necessary adjustments.
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